North Carolina Pulled Pork

I’m always looking for ways to pretend I’m a true southerner. Pulled pork is a thing, like a Thing, in North Carolina. People say there’s a difference between eastern and western NC barbecue—eastern being vinegar-based and western being ketchup-based. I don’t love overly-saucy and sweet barbecue, so I suppose that makes me a fan of the eastern type.

In my head pulled pork is a summer food that you make for barbecues on sweltering sunny days. You pile the sweet, tangy pork onto buns and eat with a side of coleslaw and a cold beer. Last summer, I did just that. But this pulled pork is made in the crock pot, which, in my opinion, is a decidedly cool-weather cookware. So I say make this all year round. Eat it on buns, straight up on a plate, with a side of collard greens (because that’s how they’d do it in North Carolina guys!) or roasted squash.

This pulled pork does have some ketchup in it, but it not sauce-drenched. It takes a little thinking and planning ahead, but not a whole lot of hands on work. My timeline went like this:

– buy pork at farmer’s market on Saturday
– leave pork out on counter to thaw until Sunday morning
– wake up Sunday to cat and dog scuffling over raw pork butt on kitchen floor, after cat has jumped up on counter and knocked pork to the floor (no cat eyeballs were harmed in the making of this pulled pork)
– rub spice mix onto pork Sunday night, put pork in refrigerator overnight
– make sauce Sunday night and store in jar in refrigerator
– put pork and half of sauce in slow cooker Monday morning and let cook (aka let house fill with tantalizing smells)

North Carolina Pulled Pork
4 servings


2 1/2 pounds pork butt

For the rub
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the sauce

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon pepper

Mix all spices and ingredients for the rub together in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork butt. Wrap the pork in plastic wrap, put it on a plate, and let it sit in the refrigerator for 8 hours.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce together. When you are ready to start cooking the pork, unwrap it, and put it in the crock pot. Pour half of the sauce over the pork. Turn the crock pot on low and let the pork cook for 8 hours.

Transfer the pork from the crock pot to a cutting board. It’ll be all tender and falling apart at this point, so be ready to move it in pieces. Shred the pork with a fork. Skim any fat off of the top of the sauce in the crock pot with a spoon. Do not put the skimmed-off fat down your kitchen sink drain. I keep any cooking fat in a jar under my sink. I’ll throw it out when the jar is full. Return the pork to the crock pot and add in the rest of the sauce. Continue to cook on low for another 45 minutes.

Serve pulled pork on buns or not on buns, with a tasty vegetable as a side!


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